Television Stage Wait
'Oscar' Nominations Ceremony on N.B.C. a Fearful Colloboratin With Films
by JACK GOULD
AFTER the televising of the nominations for the "Oscar" motion picture awards, the video and film industries can stop worrying about competition. The only thing they have to fear is cooperation.
To make the Saturday night show what it was, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences corraled scores of celebrities. The National Broadcasting Company contributed eighteen live cameras and presumbly a few million viewers. The only man missing was George Gobel, who could have best summed the entire evening: "So here we are."
The N.B.C.-Academy presentation very probably was television's most expensive coast-to-coast stage wait. Without too much trouble a viewer could imagine he was seeing "Toast of the Town," "Today," "I've Got a Secret," and the Sherman Billingsley and Igor Cassini shows all at the same time.
The confusion was beautiful organized. Three Hollywood canteens - the Coconut Grove, Ciro's and Romanoff's - were taken over for the occasion and tables were installed in a N.B.C. studio. Cameras and electronic gagetry were everywhere. The main TV headquarters was set up as a "press room," with Jack Webb serving as a sort of Dave Garroway of lower California.
Upon an appropriate cue from Mr. Webb, the names of nominees were placed in a king-sized ballot box and relayed by closed circuit TV to the aforementioned watering places for cermonious annoucement. The secrecy of the occasion was duly preserved; only an average movie goer could have guessed the principal candidates.
Irene Dunne and Louella Parsons read the names received on the screen at the Grove; Donna Reed and Sheila Graham at Ciro's; Humphrey Bogart at Romanoff's, and Greer Garson at N.B.C. Mr. Webb had to be content with names merely handed over to him.
As events turned out, the chief chore of the hosts and hostesses hither and yon was to explain that many of the nominees weren't present anywhere. Some of those who were present looked as if the could have kicked themselves for not having gone on location or been detained in conference.
In several classifications the nominees were placed in preposterous settings suggestive only the line-up room at the New York Police Headquarters. As their names were called, they stepped forward, wishing to know what to do with their hands and their facial expressions. There is no embarrassment quite like glamarous embarrassment.
Between the lulls there were scenes from the films nominated for best production of the year and also scenes from past musical successes; there were fine but there were hardly enough ot them for a ninety-minute program.
Incidental close-ups of the Hollywood gathering, which might have mad the program, were few and far between. At the outset Joan Crawford, followed a step behind by Mike Romanoff, made a classic entrance; she won't do that again! At the program's close, Mr. Bogart, purposely killing time, enlivened matters by trying to chisel drinks from Romanoff. But perhaps there was good reason to keep the cameras away from the crowd. One "shot" showed a gentleman, chin on his arm, apparently catching a nap.
Except that it is N.B.C. which is so determined to cover the sundry affairs of the Academy, one might suspect the Hollywood awards institution of subtle business strategy. Once upon a time it was feared an Academy telecast would keep moviegoers home. One more show like Saturday night's and the neighborhood film theatres will have to reinstate a reserved seat policy.
(The New York Times, February 14, 1955)